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  • Alex Smith - The 49ers quarterback came up one pass short of setting an NFL record for completion percentage in Monday's victory over Arizona. He was 18 of 19 passing, but the league requires 20 or more attempts to qualify for the record.

  • Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press

    Alex Smith drops back to pass against Arizona on Monday. His 18-of-19 performance came within an eyelash of setting a record.

49ers' Smith misses passing record by an eyelash

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 - 8:04 am

SANTA CLARA – A football signed by Alex Smith and Frank Gore arrived at the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month after the 49ers' record-setting, 621-yard effort in Week 5 against Buffalo.

On Monday, the 49ers came within a foot or so of sending more Smith-related memorabilia to Canton, Ohio. Smith's completion rate against the Arizona Cardinals – 18 of 19 for 232 yards – is the best for an NFL quarterback with that number of attempts.

But it's not an official NFL record; the league requires a passer to have 20 or more attempts.

Smith appears to have come very close to a 20th attempt, and coach Jim Harbaugh said he thought Smith should have the all-time completion percentage record.

Harbaugh said an eight-yard gain by Michael Crabtree at the start of the fourth quarter that was recorded as a run should have been a reception.

That would have made Smith 19 for 20, a 95 percent completion rate.

"It definitely was a pass," Harbaugh said Tuesday. "You guys are onto something."

On the play, Smith dropped back and threw a screen pass to Crabtree. The receiver, however, appears to take a step behind the line of scrimmage before making the catch, making it a lateral instead of a forward pass.

The record holder for completion percentage is former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who completed 24 of 26 passes (92.3 percent) in 2009 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

If Smith had entered the record book, his receivers would deserve an assist.

Crabtree and tight end Delanie Walker made tough catches against the Cardinals, with Crabtree snatching a ball over the helmet of cornerback Patrick Peterson for the game's first TD.

The biggest ovation, however, went to Randy Moss, who turned a short pass in the third quarter into a 47-yard touchdown. Moss, 35, could have run out of bounds for a first down. Instead, he broke back inside and outraced the Cardinals' defense to the end zone.

Harbaugh said Moss got "a lot of reaction" from teammates on the sideline and in the film room Tuesday for that play and for a block that helped free Crabtree on a 22-yard gain earlier in the game.

"Randy just works extremely hard, cares a lot about his teammates," Harbaugh said. "When you see a guy have success and then you see the reaction that the teammates have for him, you know that he's a respected and well-liked guy."

Said tight end Vernon Davis, with a broad smile on his face: "What about Randy? The old man up the sidelines – a little two-step and then taking off."

While Crabtree and Moss shined, Davis was held in check for the third game in a row, with just two catches for 34 yards. Harbaugh said defenses have been so focused on stopping Davis that it's created opportunities for other players. For instance, Harbaugh said defensive ends have been engaging Davis as he goes out for his pass routes, which disrupts the timing between Smith and Davis but also takes the defensive ends out of the passing lanes.

"It was a great game for our wide receivers," Harbaugh said. "That's always a point of contention. 'Why aren't the wide receivers more involved?' Well, they were very much involved in this game."

Davis said he was happy to see the other pass catchers have big games. But that doesn't mean he's been content with his stat line in recent games.

"Being a competitor, and my competitive nature, it's tough to deal with," he said. "During the game, you want to be involved. I mean, everyone who catches passes wants to be involved."

Bye bye, 49ers – The 49ers won't meet again until Tuesday. That was part of a deal Harbaugh made with the team weeks ago as their bye week approached.

Not only would they get four days off as required by the collective bargaining agreement, he'd give them two more days if they beat division rivals Seattle and Arizona.

"They were good for it," he said. "So we were good for it."

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